Feb. 6, the U.S. Men’s National Team fell 2-1 to Honduras in their opening game of the Final Round of 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifying at Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano.
It was the first time the USA lost their opening game in the history of the Hexagonal. Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s roster was questionable, his substitutes were used early and also questionable, and the overall play uninspired. Landon Donovan’s absence was painful.
Klinsmann is now 11-7-5 at the helm of the USMNT. The USA is now 12-4-3 all-time against Honduras and 9-1-1 against Honduras since 2002. This was a game the U.S. could have won.
Klinsmann’s unfortunate roster choices
Timmy Chandler started at right back and Fabian Johnson at left back. Geoff Cameron and Omar Gonzalez both made their World Cup qualifying debuts paired as center backs. Johnson, with only three caps, was the defender with the most National Team experience, which is shocking considering what’s at stake in this tournament.
Clint Dempsey scored the go-ahead goal in the 36th minute, but Juan Carlos Garcia and Jerry Bengtson responded with a goal apiece, giving Honduras all three points. Dempsey’s goal was the 31st of his career, his 11th in World Cup qualifying matches and the sixth goal in this current World Cup qualifying cycle to lead the USA. He moves into sole possession of second place in qualifying goals ahead of Eddie Johnson and Brian McBride and the Texan moved into sole possession of third all-time in career goals.
The U.S. lead only lasted a few minutes as Garcia equalized with an athletic bicycle kick in the 40th minute that stymied goalkeeper Tim Howard. Bengtson, who plays for the New England Revolution, scored the game winner, giving Honduras took the early lead in the Hexagonal.
Klinsmann made his three substitutions early in the second half and an injury could have made a devastating impact in goal differential. Maurice Edu was brought in for Williams in the 58th minute, Sacha Kljestan replaced Johnson in the 59th minute and Graham Zusi was brought in for Jones in the 67th minute.
Several Honduran players – Víctor Bernárdez, Roger Espinoza, Oscar Boniek García, Mario Martínez and Jerry Bengtson – work in MLS, raising questions why the USA wasn’t better prepared and able to anticipate and counter their game. USA’s Herculez Gomez, Jose Torres and Edgar Castillos, three worthy Mexico-based weapons against Honduras, were left on the bench and never deployed.
The USA has qualified for six straight FIFA World Cup tournaments, but with this loss the USMNT’s road ahead is far more challenging and confidence in Klinsmann reduced.
Next up for the USMNT is a home World Cup qualifier on March 22 against Costa Rica at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colo. The game kicks off at 10 p.m. ET and will be broadcast live on ESPN, WatchESPN and Univision networks.
Five USA players are currently carrying yellow cards in World Cup qualifying: Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, Maurice Edu, Fabian Johnson and Graham Zusi. Their next caution will result in a one-match suspension.
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Match: USA vs. Honduras
Date: Feb. 6, 2013
Competition: FIFA World Cup Qualifier – Final Round
Venue: Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano
Kickoff: 3 p.m. CT
Weather: 84 degrees, humid
USA – Clint Dempsey (Jermaine Jones) 36th minute
HON – Juan Carlos Garcia (Maynor Figueroa) 40
HON – Jerry Bengtson (Oscar Garcia) 79
USA : 1-Tim Howard (capt.); 2-Timmy Chandler, 5-Omar Gonzalez, 20-Geoff Cameron, 23-Fabian Johnson; 14-Danny Williams (7-Maurice Edu 58), 13-Jermaine Jones (19-Graham Zusi 67), 4-Michael Bradley, 18-Eddie Johnson (16-Sacha Kljestan 59); 8-Clint Dempsey, 17-Jozy Altidore
Subs not used: 3-Carlos Bocanegra, 6-Michael Parkhurst, 9-Herculez Gomez, 10-Jose Torres, 11-Brad Davis, 12-Brad Guzan, 15-Edgar Castillo, 21-Brad Evans, 22-Sean Johnson
Head Coach: Jurgen Klinsmann
HON : 18-Noel Valladares , 5-Víctor Bernárdez, 3-Maynor Figueroa, 6-Juan Carlos García, 8-Arnold Peralta, 15-Roger Espinoza, 14-Oscar Boniek García, 19-Luis Garrido, 10-Mario Martínez, 11-Jerry Bengtson (20-Jorge Claros 84), 13-Carlo Costly(9-Georgie Welcome 90+)
Subs not used: 22-Donis Escobar, 1-José Mendoza, 17-Brayan Beckeles, 2-Osman Chávez, 4-Juan Pablo Montes, 12-Orlin Peralta, 16-Alex López, 23-Aldo Oviedo, 7-Christian Altamirano, 21-Roger Rojas
Head coach: Luis Suarez
Stats Summary: HON / USA
Shots: 12 / 11
Shots on Goal: 5 / 2
Saves: 1 / 3
Corner Kicks: 4 / 7
Fouls: 10 / 9
Offside: 5 / 0
Referee: Walter Quesada (CRC)
Assistant Referee 1: Leonel Leal (CRC)
Assistant Referee 2: Octavio Jara (CRC)
Fourth Official: Jeffrey Solis (CRC)
Budweiser Man of the Match: Clint Dempsey